Flint water disaster serves as encouragement for Indiana to evaluate water crisis response

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (Feb. 4, 2016) - The water disaster in Flint, Michigan is encouraging many states like Indiana to evaluate their response if a water crisis would occur here.

Dr. Andrew Whelton and his team of students at Purdue University are working to study the disaster in Flint and using it as a tool to help Indiana prepare for a similar crisis.

"Everybody is self evaluating. How do we not let this happen to us? How do we not let this happen in Indiana? Everybody is more aware and when everybody is more aware, the more vigilant and more likely to pay attention (we are)," Whelton said.

The team is working with state and local agencies to help them better understand the science behind water. Dr. Whelton said this is necessary before authorities can issue advice to residents.

“When large scale contamination events occur, local communities, state communities, and even the federal agencies that are providing input, don’t actually understand what decisions they have to make," Whelton said.

According to Whelton, agencies should be asking questions like, 'how long can you be without water?' and 'how long can you shut down your intake?'

While Whelton said it's not likely a water crisis like what we're seeing in Flint, could happen here in Indiana, he did say any number of other unintentional or intentional water emergencies could occur. When asked if Whelton feels confident the State of Indiana could handle a water crisis, he responded, "I’m confident. I’ve met a lot of people in the state, environmental management agency, homeland security agency, and some of their federal partners that support them. I’m very confident that they would know what they need to do.”

In a statement, The Indiana Department of Environmental Management said:

“The Indiana Department of Environmental Management takes seriously its role in protecting Hoosiers and the environment. The agency oversees Indiana’s public water supply systems through on-site inspections, monitoring mandatory reports submitted by facilities, providing technical assistance and responding to complaints regarding water quality.

The agency partners with professional trade associations to ensure operators, local government officials and property owners have accurate and reliable information. Currently, Indiana’s public drinking water systems have a high rate of compliance. In some communities, lead pipes were installed decades ago and can be a source of lead in drinking water today. The agency requires public water systems test for lead and, when necessary, take action to educate and protect consumers.”

Whelton said if residents have questions about their drinking water, they should first contact their water utility. He said a good way to judge the quality of your drinking water is by monitoring any changes in the color, clarity, odor, and taste.

Citizens Water sent CBS4 this statement:

Citizens carefully monitors its source water and finished drinking water for factors that could cause lead or other substances to be stripped from pipes in the distribution system or in customer service lines. Citizens also works closely with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to assure our water meets all federal and state requirements and guidelines.

People who live in older homes with older pipes or who have brass fixtures are more susceptible to having contaminated water. There are many ways to have your water tested. You can contact a professional water testing agency. There are many in the Indianapolis area. You can also buy a home testing kit online. The Indiana State Department of Health offers testing for a fee, although their testing does not include lead tests. You can find out more by clicking here. For a link on IDEM's drinking water report, click here.

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